On Tuesday night, a longtime Democratic congressman lost his grip on the seat he had held for nearly two decades—and he may have saved the Democratic Party an embarrassing defeat.
Rep. John Tierney, who was first elected to represent the North Shore of Massachusetts in 1996, conceded soon after polls closed to Seth Moulton, a 35-year-old Iraq War veteran and Harvard graduate. Although Tierney had won the backing of most of the national Democratic establishment, including President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, he had endured a series of scandals and was facing a likely defeat in the November general election to Richard Tisei, who is vying to be the first openly gay Republican to serve in the House of Representatives.
“This was just an amazing 18 years, and we appreciate it, and we appreciate you standing with us all the way,” Tierney told supporters a little after 9 p.m.
Moulton, who became a staunch and outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq after serving four tours there, is thought to offer Democrats at least a better chance in a year in which Republicans are anticipating a wave election in their favor.
Tierney was nearly toppled by Tisei, the state Senate minority leader, in 2012, but was buoyed at the end by enthusiasm for Obama’s reelection. Despite Tierney’s longevity, he was never a much beloved figure in Massachusetts, and he has been dogged in recent years by a scandal involving his wife, Patrice, who was convicted in 2010 of tax fraud.
Tierney became the fourth sitting member of the House of Representatives to lose a reelection bid in a year in which conservatives on the right and liberals on the left mounted a series of challenges to their party standard bearers. The insurgents were slightly better equipped on the right; Tierney is the first incumbent Democrat to lose a primary this year.